News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

August 28, 2013

Emphasis on community service has Indiana State ranked No. 1 in nation

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University junior Rachel Mullinnix didn’t do a lot of volunteer work in high school.

But once she started at ISU, many opportunities opened up and she took advantage of them. She participated in Donaghy Day, Martin Luther King Day of Service and Americorps, in which she earned an education award in exchange for her work with a nonprofit.  

“It got me involved in the Terre Haute community and it just lit me on fire,” the Ellettsville native said. “I absolutely loved it.”

It also helped her decide on her career path. She aspires to be a nonprofit marketing director.

In recent years, ISU has placed a major emphasis on community service and volunteerism, and now, those efforts are being recognized in a big way.

ISU is ranked No. 1 in the country when it comes to community service, according to the 2013 Washington Monthly College Guide.

The guide places ISU at the top of its list of 281 national universities in the category of community service participation and hours worked by students, faculty and staff.

ISU is ranked No. 2 in the level of university support for service learning. Last year’s rankings placed Indiana State third in both categories.

“It’s a proud day to be a Sycamore,” ISU President Dan Bradley said during a news conference at Ryves Youth Center.

Community service “is a core component of our strategic plan and everything that we do,” Bradley said. “It is embedded in our teaching, our co-curricular activities and our employee benefits and recognition.”

He went on to say, “There is an expectation that if you are a Sycamore, you will be involved in community service.”

Bradley credited the leadership of Nancy Rogers, associate vice president for community engagement and experiential learning, and the work of her staff in the Center for Community Engagement.

The Washington Monthly ranking “is a testament to the hard work of countless Indiana State faculty, staff and students and some tremendous community partners,” Rogers said. “The hands-on learning opportunities that our community partners help provide make our students better citizens and future professionals.”

The impact of the students’ service makes a real difference in the community, she said.  

The news conference took place at Ryves Youth Center, one of dozens of locations where students and employees volunteer.

Through the years, thousands of ISU students have worked with the children at Ryves by providing tutoring, playing games, mentoring and serving as positive role models, said Jim Edwards, Ryves Youth Center director.

He’s also seen how ISU increasingly has emphasized the importance of community involvement, “changing the face of what education is at the university,” he said.

Edwards said the center “is looking forward to a continued partnership with ISU. They are a fantastic partner. Without them, we’d really find it difficult to survive.”

Bradley hopes the ranking, and national recognition, will help recruit students, employees and donor support. He also hopes it will show legislators and policy makers  “we are doing a great job and deserve their support.”

Most importantly, he said, “It’s great to know that Indiana State is making an impact on our community and that our students are learning how to be productive citizens.”

ISU is in the top 10 percent nationally (No. 25) in the overall rankings by Washington Monthly, a bimonthly nonprofit magazine that focuses on U.S. politics and government. The rankings also take into account research and social mobility — recruiting and graduating low-income students.

“Instead of lauding colleges for closing their doors to all but an elite few, we give high marks to institutions that enroll low-income students, help them graduate and don’t charge them an arm and a leg to attend,” Washington Monthly’s editors wrote in the September/October issue. “We recognize institutions that are committed to public service, both in the way they teach and in encouraging students to enter service-focused careers. … Our rankings aim to identify institutions that are acting on behalf of the true public interest.”

In 2012-13, students, faculty and staff at ISU provided an estimated 1.2 million hours of community service, with a total value of $8 million, and the university served 115 community partners, according to the annual report of the university’s Center for Community Engagement.

The university engaged in a year-round partnership with several not-for-profit organizations in Terre Haute’s Ryves Neighborhood, including Ryves Youth Center at Etling Hall, St. Ann Clinic, Bethany House and Catholic Charities of Terre Haute. The partnership included mini-grants from the Center for Community Engagement for faculty to develop service learning projects in the neighborhood.

Other significant partnerships during the year included:

• A partnership between the Wounded Warrior Project and the department of kinesiology, recreation and sport to assist injured service members via a daylong retreat at the Sycamore Outdoor Center (formerly the Indiana State University Field Campus).

• Completion of the university’s second Habitat for Humanity House.

• Sycamore Readers, in which tutors from the university provide free help for struggling elementary school readers in Vigo County.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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